National Day Rallies are a little like a company’s annual D&D. Everyone show up for a little back-slapping to boost morale and at the end of the day nothing much will change.
This year’s National Day Rally is no different. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hit all the normal notes this year. How Singapore is in its worst recession in recent memory but we have seen the worst of the current recession; How Singapore must stay cohesive to overcome challenges in the coming year; and how Singapore’s religious harmony must never be taken for granted.
It is at this last part where this year’s rally is slightly different from normal. Due to the leadership tussle at AWARE, a non-governmental organization focusing on women’s issues, PM Lee has a ready-made example of the need for religious tolerance.
PM Lee noted that this was an attempt by a religiously motivated group to take over an NGO it disapproved of and impose its own agenda. In what could be the Singapore’s government clearest stand on the matter, he noted his disapproval without criticizing anyone in particular. Most people in conservative Singapore are against the homosexual stand of AWARE but disapprove of the way it was taken-over. It was a fine balancing act which I thought PM Lee did very well.
PM Lee said that government stayed out of the tussle, and he only spoke to religious leaders after everything was settled. I’m not Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s biggest fan but he poach this sensitive subject in a clear, careful matter that state the government’s stand without offending anyone too much. I have to say “well-played” by PM Lee.